New far-right bloc challenges EU integration

DAILY SABAH WITH AFP
ISTANBUL
Published 16.06.2015 21:49
Updated 16.06.2015 22:28
New far-right bloc challenges EU integration

In a bid to challenge advocates of European integration, France's far-right National Front party leader, Marine Le Pen, has unveiled a new far-right grouping in the European Parliament recruiting Polish and British members

Far-right parties announced on Tuesday they had enough support to form an anti-EU group called Europe of Nations and Freedoms in European Parliament after failing to do so a year ago. The leader of France's far right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, unveiled the plan to form the new group composed of anti-Europe parties. She was at the time unable to meet the required criteria of at least 25 lawmakers from seven EU member states, finding allies in only five countries.

Le Pen could until now count on 37 like-minded deputies elected to European Parliament in 2014, well above the 25 minimum, but they came from only five of the EU's 28 member states, short of the seven required to win recognition and EU financing.

Le Pen said British deputy Janice Atkinson, who was expelled earlier this year by U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), had agreed to join along with Michal Marusik and Stanislaw Zoltek, who had cut their ties to the extreme-right Polish Congress of the New Right (KNP) led by Janusz Korwin-Mikke. Danish politician Geertz Wilders also agreed to join Eurosceptic party.

"It is the culmination of a year's work," Le Pen said at the formal launch of the new group in Brussels, where she welcomed the three new members that give her seven-country representation. "We are going to fight the European Commission and its turpitudes," she said, also attacking European Parliament President Martin Schulz for belittling her over the past year.

In a surprising triumph in the European Parliament election in May 2014, Le Pen's far-right National Front won the election with 25 percent of the vote, increasing their number of seats to 24 of France's 74 seats in the parliament.

Wilders, a prominent Dutch politician and founder and leader of the far-right Freedom Party (PVV), is widely known for his anti-Islam and anti-immigrant stance. He gave an anti-Islam speech at a Texas event shortly before an attack in May. Lately, he vowed to show cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad on television during time reserved for political parties, after Dutch parliament turned down his request for an exhibition of cartoons depicting Muhammad to be shown in the chamber. Anti-Islam caricatures and events that are allegedly being held in the name of the freedom of speech and free society are considered as a way to insult the Muslim community, as many Muslims consider the depiction of provocative cartoons of Muhammad sacrilegious. In the past, he triggered protests in the Muslim world for a short film he broadcast online that juxtaposed verses from the Quran with videos of violence and terrorism.

The frequency and notoriety of hate crimes and violent attacks on Muslims has increased globally over the past decade, especially after the deadly attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7. Intolerance, hatred and discrimination of religious and ethnic minorities show that these problems have yet to be dealt with seriously. The threat posed by many French militants affiliated with the radical Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has led to growing intolerance toward the Muslim community in the country. The misrepresentation of Islam by militant groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), al-Qaida, Boko Haram and the Taliban has triggered more fear and anti-Muslim sentiments, not only in France, but in many Western countries. As these militant groups have carried out violent attacks and killed many, people in Europe are more inclined to act violently against Muslims and immigrants while supporting far-right political parties like UKIP, which received 12.6 percent of the vote in the U.K. general election in May, resulting in one seat in British parliament.

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